The Bank Dick (1940)

Any man who hates middle-class morality, children and dogs can’t be all bad, at least if that man is W.C. Fields. His inspired brand of misanthropic comedy made him one of the unlikeliest stars during Hollywood’s glamour days. Hailed as one of his funniest movies, THE BANK DICK is one of the films on which he exercised the most control. Written on scrap paper, the script cast him as Egbert Souse, an inveterate tippler who keeps stumbling into jobs: first as a movie director then as a bank’s security guard. The film’s only motivation is to make room for Fields’ acerbic one-liners and improvisations, including a great juggling bit with a paper napkin. Director Edward F. Cline had worked on some of Buster Keaton’s early comedies, so he knew how to get the most out of the climactic chase scene. For the rest, he just kept the camera running while Fields did his thing. Studio management didn’t know what to make of the picture and even tried re-writing it, to no avail. Fields simply did what he wanted. Fortunately, the film was a big hit except in its setting, Lompoc, CA. Residents of the dry town resented his constant tippling and his consistent mispronunciation of the name as “Lom-poke.”

(d. Edward F. Cline, 72m, 35mm)

In attendance: Ronald J. Fields, Allen Fields